Gateway: Living

Gig Harbor Garden Tour celebrates 20th anniversary in community

Mark and Inez Ritchey have been involved in all 20 Gig Harbor Garden Tours. The Ritchey’s garden is a mature space, featuring a forest area they’ve created and maintained over the years.
Mark and Inez Ritchey have been involved in all 20 Gig Harbor Garden Tours. The Ritchey’s garden is a mature space, featuring a forest area they’ve created and maintained over the years. jbessex@gateline.com

Tour a local garden and help local literacy programs? Sounds like an unusual connection, but it’s a formula that’s worked for the last 20 years for the Gig Harbor Garden Tour and Association.

Proceeds from the tour are used to fund local literacy programs through the association’s literacy grants, awarded in the fall to applicants in Gig Harbor and on the Key Peninsula, said Janice Reeder, the nonprofit’s board president.

“We just want to make a difference ... we want to find where we can help,” Reeder said. “Since we’re such a small organization we can know the people we give money to.”

The 20th annual Gig Harbor Garden Tour runs Saturday and Sunday (June 24 and 25) in Gig Harbor.

The tour started out looking to fund adult literacy programs and has since grown to include literacy programs and efforts for all ages.

Mark and Inez Ritchey have been involved in the tour for more than 15 years. They were first drawn to the program because of its dedication to helping adult literacy within the community.

“They thought that was really needed and it was,” Inez said. “It was purely adult literacy in the beginning.”

Over the years the couple has included their own garden on the tour and Mark now serves on the nonprofit’s board.

“It’s really an opportunity to do something for the community,” he said. “It’s also turned out to be a wonderful opportunity to know other people and work with other people in the community.”

The Ritchey’s garden is a mature space, featuring a forest area they’ve created and maintained over the years.

“Our garden is a jungle,” Inez said. “We planted from border to border to border to border.”

The tour has also grown to now include two days, and this year features seven gardens and dozens of volunteers. Between 20 and 30 volunteers work year-round on the tour, with more than 100 additional volunteers showing up for the event to help with things like parking, ticket taking and serving as docents through the garden.

The Literacy Grants are awarded annually, with the grant application available online and due Oct. 1. More than $30K was awarded in 2016 to local groups and organizations from last year’s tour.

Recipients of the grant included Communities in Schools of Peninsula, Pediatrics Northwest, the Gig Harbor Pierce County Library and several Peninsula School District Elementary schools including Discovery, Evergreen, Minter Creek, Purdy and Vaughn.

“It’s really expanded and I think it’s really cool because it includes babies to as old as we can get them,” Inez said. “The adult part has kind of dissipated but we’re hoping to keep that in.”

In fact, the association is looking for adult literacy programs to support, but has had a difficult time finding those programs. Part of the difficulty lies in the adult students themselves, with many adults being unwilling to admit their need for assistance, Reeder said.

“We are always interested in finding more literacy needs in our community,” she said. “We see ourselves finding small pockets of need where we can make a big difference.”

Tickets are $25 each can be purchased at several Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula locations including: Ace Hardware, The Garden Room, Rosedale Gardens Nursery, Tickled Pink, Wilco Farm Store and Sunnycrest Nursery and Floral.

More information can be found online at gigharborgardentour.org.

Andrea Haffly: 253-358-4155, @gateway_andrea

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